Tired of hating people – the story of Zak Ebrahim

Interesting story from Zak Ebrahim, the son of a terrorist, about his rejection of violence and his determination not to be his father’s son. Resonates closely with the character development of Ali in BLOOD & INK.

Particularly poignant was Zak’s mother’s reaction to his change of heart:

She looked at me with the weary eyes of someone who had experienced enough dogmatism to last a lifetime, and said, ‘I’m tired of hating people.’ In that instant I realized how much negative energy it takes to hold that hatred inside of you.

Oakham School visit – Years 9 and 10

Rutland is the smallest county in England. Not a great place in which to have a heart attack (hospital waiting times are relatively high). Not a great place in which to be snowed in (county council budgets don’t always extend to gritters). But a great place to go to school, if Oakham School is anything to go by. I spent a very enjoyable afternoon there last week – well worth the long train journey. I won’t say any more here because the talks have been well described on the school’s own website: Winter Author Events 2012. Many thanks to librarians, staff and students for their warm welcome.

Visiting Year 7 at the Regis School

Tuareg reader at the Regis School

It’s always nice to see a library at the heart of a school, and the Regis School library is the most central and accessible school library I’ve ever seen, situated in a sunny atrium just beyond Reception. It is a well-stocked, busy library with fantastic staff. I spent a very enjoyable morning visiting some Year 7 groups at the Regis School and talking with them about the essential ingredients of a good story. They have clearly followed up on this theme – here’s a pic of Mrs Coleman enacting them in a wonderfully dynamic way! Many thanks to all at the Regis School for their warm welcome.

Visiting Year 8 at Henry Cort Community College

Stephen Davies with Hampshire Book Award Students

I enjoyed visiting Henry Cort Community College last Friday and spending a morning with Year 8. Some fantastic thriller concepts came out of the workshops, some of which sent a chill down my spine! ‘Locked in a zoo’ and ‘Brother versus brother’ were just two that I remember out of many strong ideas. Well done to all who took part, and to librarian extraordinaire Margaret Taylor who organized the visit.

Visit to St Helen’s Senior Girls’ School

Always be careful if you use the overhead racks on a train. That was the principal lesson I learned on Tuesday morning.

I was getting the train from Chichester to Northwood, a suburb to the north-west of London, to spend a day with students at St Helen’s Senior Girls’ School. My presentations and speaking notes were in my laptop bag on the luggage rack. As we waited at East Croydon station I glanced up at the rack and the bag was nowhere to be seen. I asked those sitting around me if they had seen anyone get off with it. They had. But by the time I got to the door it was already locked – and the train was pulling out of the station. Rassum frassum.

Thankfully, the book I am currently writing was well backed up, so my loss is annoying rather than catastrophic. I should have been more careful. Please, if you’re travelling on a train (perhaps especially in the London area), keep an eye on your valuables!

St Helen’s is a delightful school, and I found the students motivated and full of good ideas. I did some workshops with Year 9 students on the subject of Research. Their energy and imagination more than made up for my lack of glitzy powerpoint slides. Many thanks to Elizabeth Howard for arranging and hosting the visit, and for patiently enduring five workshops on the same topic. Thanks also to the students, who asked incredibly insightful questions and came up with some great ideas.

The workshops have been written up very comprehensively on the school blog by Emily and Richa: Year 9 Author Visit – Stephen Davies. Well done, girls!

Visit to Chichester High School for Boys

Stephen Davies visit to CHSB

It was nice to do a visit close to home for once – this school is just around the corner from my daughter’s nursery. Many thanks to Miss Mootyen for hosting my visit, to budding authors Ethan and Milo for making my books into a very cool display down in the library, and to everyone in Year 7 and Year 8 who participated in the workshops and suggested great thriller concepts. If you weren’t able to buy a book today, fear not, there are now 2 copies of each of THE YELLOWCAKE CONSPIRACY, HACKING TIMBUKTU and OUTLAW in your library – I hope you enjoy them, and if (when you’ve finished) you feel compelled to give them good reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, then go ahead, not that I’m asking you to 😉 Anyway, here are some pics – click to enlarge.

Visiting Year 7 at Buttershaw College, Bradford

Stephen Davies author visit Buttershaw BradfordJust back from Bradford, and a very enjoyable visit to Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College. I had the pleasure of meeting all of the Year 7 students and leading them through a workshop on thriller writing. They are going to be reading and discussing The Yellowcake Conspiracy.

“We are launching a new approach to teaching English this year, with the focus entirely on novels. This will just be for year 7 pupils to begin with, but we hope that we will be able to roll it our to all year groups eventually. The idea is that students who have not been given opportunities to read whilst growing up, will be able to experience the joy of literature, before having to sit down in exam hall and write a ton of essays!” – Miss Constable, English teacher, Buttershaw

Best student answer of the day, evidently from a Michael Jackson fan:
Q. What is a thriller?
A. It’s a song!

As for Bradford, what a great place. It was only my first visit, but I’m going to stick my neck out and say that Bradford has the friendliest taxi drivers, hotel receptionists, fish fryers and teachers in the entire country.

Its town hall ain’t bad either.

City of Bradford, England. The gothic Bradford City Hall viewed from Centenary Square.

From a Future Famous Author

Dear Reader,

In ISD we have an ancient tradition called book month. In honour of that tradition we invited Mr. Stephen Davies to come and give us an author visit. In preparation for the author’s visit, our class read the book called “The Yellowcake Conspiracy.” It was fascinating to think that we would be meeting the very person who wrote that book. (It’s a very good book by the way, you should read it.) Let me tell you something beforehand. We have had a couple of author visits before so we weren’t expecting much, from our experiences they were never too interesting.

So as I was saying, He came to our class to talk to us and we were blown away. He was so easy going and entrancing that we didn’t even notice the time going by. We never wanted it to end. (Well, at least I didn’t, and I can vouch for my friends too. It’s the whole class.) He actually taught us some techniques, and we were stunned. This was the first time we actually thought of writing as a fun thing to do! Weird right? Just kidding. Anyways, he encouraged us to use our experiences to tell a story. He gave us some background info on some of his books. Imagine hearing how a character in a book you read was made. It was cool, and he answered all of our questions and doubts about his books and writing in general. I’m not going to tell you what else he did or specify, because you’ll just have to meet him yourself and find out.

He joked around and put us at ease. We could relax around him, and it made us happy. I think I can speak for my class in saying that it was productive and fun. He made writing seem natural and “cool”. We really wanted him to stay, but he left the day after he spoke to our class. I’m going to quote one of my friends on this. She said, “He was my best friend, I’m sad that he left!” (Just in case you were wondering, if she likes you, you’re her best friend.) I think many of us are thinking about writing as a hobby now. I certainly am.

Your Future Famous Author, and Student at ISD,

Mahima Kumar